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Disturbing immigration “mindset” displayed - again

Ruth Evans
Media and Communications Manager
Immigrant Council of Ireland

Last year, during debate on the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, Opposition deputies spoke openly abut the built-in racial prejudice evident in the proposed legislation.

They also spoke about an “undesirable ethos” evident in some immigration decisions.

Our concerns about this “ethos” and “mindset” that Opposition politicians spoke about deepened when we saw a media statement released by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in early January.

Even leaving aside the press statement’s unexpected linking of asylum application numbers with stats on applications for residency from non-EU citizens on the basis of marriage to an EU citizen, its content was deeply disturbing.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) does not deal with asylum applications, unless they are related to victims of trafficking, so I will not comment on that part of the release, except to say that the language used could most charitably described as unfair.

We have, however, had many clients who have applied for residency on the basis of their marriage to an EU citizen who is exercising their EU Treaty Rights by living and working in Ireland.

The Minister released statistics on the number of these types of applications received during 2010, under the heading, “sham marriages”, in bold type and underlined.

People who have been following the Government’s attempts to prevent people circumventing Ireland’s immigration laws by entering into a marriage of convenience, will know that its problems have consistently related to its determination to tar all non-EU citizen-EU citizen couples with the same brush.

It has introduced measures, subsequently struck down by the courts, which have affected all of these couples, rather than accepting that it must look at applications individually.

Reading the Minister’s press release, we see more of this approach.

If there is a change of government at the next election, let’s hope the new Government acts on the concerns raised by Opposition deputies during debate on the IRP Bill!

The ICI has welcomed reports that the Government is considering reforming Ireland’s prostitution laws as a step to combat sex trafficking of migrant women.

According to reports, the Government is examining whether legislation can be introduced to penalise those who buy sex, in line with similar legislation in Sweden.

This is a reform that the ICI, along with other groups, has been calling for, since the exposure of the horrific reality that migrant women and children are being sexually exploited for profit by Irish people on Irish soil.

The ICI believes that this type of legislation is important because it tackles the demand for paid sex which fuels the prostitution industry into which women and children are trafficked.

Sweden has had its legislation in place since 1999 and finished its 10-year evaluation of the law last year.

The Swedes see the legislation as a crucial and effective tool for tackling sexual exploitation of women and children through prostitution and trafficking.

Very importantly, the legislation is strongly support by the community, including more than 70 per cent of men.

Research conducted by the ICI and published in 2009 showed that significant numbers of women and children were being trafficking into prostitution in Ireland.

The Government has referred a report on the impact of the Swedish legislation to the Attorney-General for his opinion on whether such legislation could be introduced here.

The ICI hopes the answer will be yes.

Women and girls continue to be horrifically abused and exploited in Ireland today, so clearly our current approach is not working.

Failing to do more to end this exploitation is not an option.

The ICI understands that the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is not on the list of Bills the Government hopes to finalise before an election is called.

If the election is called before the Bill is passed, it will lapse.

We believe the Bill is so fundamentally flawed and unfair that starting from scratch with comprehensive, fair and transparent legislation would be the preferable option.

The ICI has been lobbying for comprehensive immigration law reform for almost a decade now but, even so, our preference would be that the Bill lapses and a new Government starts the process from scratch.

Fine Gael and Labour have both raised serious concerns about the Bill during Committee Stage debate, so we would hope that, if they form Government after the election, they would act on those concerns.

The Government first began consultations on the Bill back in 2002 and it is an indictment that comprehensive law reform has not occurred before now. But the current legislation, which fails to spell out who can come to Ireland, for how long, and with what rights and obligations, must be re-thought and redrafted.

16 January 2011   


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